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Olympic hopeful’s wife blisters sailing bureaucracy

by Courtesy Rich Roberts for on 7 Jul 2004
Kevin Hall Emirates Team New Zealand / Photo Chris Cameron ETNZ
Amanda Hall, the wife of testicular cancer survivor and U.S. Olympic Finn class sailing representative Kevin Hall, has spoken out bitterly about the ‘bureaucratic obstacles’ blocking him from a final drug clearance to compete at Athens next month.

‘Kevin has endured logistically challenging mandated blood tests, tedious and repetitive paperwork demands, inconsistent and contradictory stipulations on his time, his energy and his patience,’ she said, ‘all the while keeping a smile on for the press, keeping his optimism alive, and with little moral support and advocacy from the very organisations established for those purposes.’

Hall, 34, is a former resident of Ventura, California, now living in Bowie, Md. He requires a renewal of his Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) that allows him weekly injections of testosterone - a steroid normally banned by the International Olympic Committee - to compensate for the loss of his testicles to cancer in the early 90’s.

US Sailing officials have maintained for months that there would not be a problem. Olympic Director Jonathan Harley wrote in an e-mail May 6: ‘There's not a doubt in my mind that he will get an exemption that will carry him for the next four or five years. I'll go to the bank on that.

We should have a definite answer within a week.’
Two months later, with the Olympics five weeks away, Hall is still waiting while he trains in Athens - and, in light of the current anti-drug atmosphere weighing heavily on the Olympics, growing more restless by the moment.

Harley, responding to a request for an update on the situation, said on June 18: ‘Kevin has received approval to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympic Regatta.’

Although Hall's situation was of ongoing interest in the sailing community, there was no formal announcement.

Harley explained, ‘As the information is in essence 'confidential,' we did not do a press release. Matters like this are supposed to be confidential. If word gets out, it can come from Kevin, not from [US Sailing].’

US Sailing President Janet Baxter followed up on June 19: ‘We have operated all along as if he would receive the required approvals, so the final paperwork is not news and the details will not be published by us. We want him concentrating on Athens, not worrying about the testing process which has become a real burden to him and to his family and fans. He has been doing that, and the other issues can be put aside.’

Perhaps it was better to keep family and friends in the dark. The news was premature, at best, as Hall responded in an e-mail to the sailing newsletter Scuttlebutt.

‘I only have part of my waiver,’ he said. ‘There are conditions on my TUE stipulated by the IOC. One of these is that an 'independent referee,' different from the ISAF [International Sailing Federation] Medical Commission, different from WADA [World Anti-Drug Authority] and different from the IOC Medical Commission, review my case.

‘I'm not sure to whom this has seemed easy, but we are just over one month from the Olympics, and I still do not have a final, all-bases-covered answer. I first broached this issue to the USOC and the IOC in 1995.’

At one point, Hall was told he would know by July 2. That became July 9 following an apparent procedural blunder.

Amanda Hall, an emergency medicine physician, said, ‘we were told that the referee accidentally discovered Kevin's name as it appeared on one of the documents and now a second referee must be chosen. I am not sure how to respond to this news except with horror and disgust.’

Until recently Hall was reluctant to speak openly against US Sailing, but now he and Amanda figure they have nothing to lose.

Hall said, ‘That Jonathan [Harley] and [Olympic Sailing Committee chairman] Fred [Hagedorn] hide behind 'confidential' is one thing. That they did nothing until Amanda followed up with them a few days ago leads me to believe they still think I'm over-reacting - and the pattern of little proactive or enthusiastic activity from those two until the word 'media' is mentioned continues. I don't feel I need to cover for them anymore.

‘It seems now that media is the only leverage I have, and at this point I agree that trying to get some answers is better than sitting waiting by the phone.’

Amanda Hall wrote: ‘In the nine years of such demands he has not ONCE demonstrated an elevated testosterone level and not ONCE asked for anything more than fair and equal treatment. As far as I am concerned this is the last straw in a long line of stalling techniques that amount to a spit in his face.

‘What may be a job to the IOC, USOC, ISAF, US Sailing and WADA is a lifelong dream to the man I love. What may be a simple bureaucratic hurdle to them is a constant reminder to Kevin that cancer took away his ability to procreate and threatened his life at a young age. His courage and his determination are a shining example of making it against the odds.

‘Medal or no medal, Kevin's success in Olympic sailing is already a testament to the power and triumph of a childhood dream, in spite of those who tried to keep him down.’
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